Day 339 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue Hebrews.
Hebrews 9 – In contrast to Old Testament high priests who offered the blood of sacrificial animals in an earthly sanctuary, Jesus presented His own blood in God’s presence in heaven itself. What is the result? He secured “an eternal redemption.” This is incredible. When we compare the millions of Old Testament sacrifices with the power and effects of Jesus’ single sacrifice, we are amazed at His. The one sacrifice of the Son of God delivers forever all who believe.
Because of who Jesus is and what He has done, “he is the mediator of a new covenant.” Old Testament prophets (such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel) prophesied that God would make a new covenant with His people in the last days (Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36–37). As His words at the Last Supper indicate, Jesus’ death inaugurated the new covenant: “This cup . . . is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). His sacrifice is so monumental that it saves Old Testament Believers as well as New Testament ones: His death “redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” This is amazing!
Jesus’ atonement is the work of the Trinity. Of course, only the Son became a man, died, and rose again. But Paul speaks of the Father when he writes that, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19); and Hebrews adds, “Christ . . . through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God.” The author again distinguishes Jesus’ unique sacrifice from its Old Testament precursors: the blood of sacrificed animals set apart God’s Old Testament people as holy to the Lord. “How much more” will Jesus’ violent death (His “blood”) “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Jesus’ atonement frees us to serve God by cleansing our consciences. All human beings’ consciences (except those hardened beyond feeling) act as internal sin detectors, usually “going off” when we do wrong. Only Jesus’ atoning death can wash our consciences and liberate us to serve God with the sincerity and zeal that He is worthy of. His cross work was “a labor of love” (if there ever was one!) that fuels our Christian lives. He freed us to “love [Him who] first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This means that by God’s grace set forth in Jesus’ death and resurrection we can now enjoy God, walk with Him, and do His will.
Verse 23 is one of the most startling verses in all Scripture. It teaches that Jesus’ sacrifice cleansed heaven itself! The key to understanding this is found in the preceding verses. There we learn that the blood of sacrificial animals purified “almost everything” connected to the old covenant: the book of the covenant (the law), the people, the tabernacle, and its vessels. In fact, on the Day of Atonement, the sacrificial blood was applied to the Holy Place and the altar (Leviticus 16:15–19). The high priest “shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. . . . Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it. . . . and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel” (Leviticus 16:16, 18–19).
Does this mean that God or His presence is intrinsically in need of purification? Of course not! Just as the passage quoted said twice—it is because of the sins (“uncleannesses”) of God’s people that atonement needed to be made for heaven. And the next verse in Hebrews confirms this interpretation by identifying the “heavenly things” of Hebrews 9:23: Christ entered “heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” The last three words are crucial—Jesus cleansed heaven itself “on our behalf.” Nothing was wrong with God and His heavenly dwelling place in themselves. But our sins stink to high heaven and, just as the Old Testament picture showed, they contaminate the very presence of God in whose presence all things exist (Hebrews 4:13; Colossians 1:17).
All of this proclaims the greatness of Jesus’ sacrifice! It purifies heaven itself for us sinners. Surely this is a gigantic way of saying that salvation is all of God and all of grace. What should we say to such a truth? “Thank you, Jesus!” would be a very good beginning! And then, “Lord, give us your enabling grace so that we might live holy and loving lives that say ‘thank you’ every day for such remarkable love.” God richly provides the motivation we His people need to dedicate our whole hearts to Him—he sent his Son to make atonement for our sins and even to cleanse “heaven itself” by His blood. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
The writer points to more differences between the Old Testament high priest on the Day of Atonement and Jesus. The former high priest entered the Most Holy Place “every year” to make atonement. By contrast, Jesus entered heaven itself “once for all at the end of the ages.” The former high priest offered “blood not his own,” but Jesus offered “the sacrifice of himself.” The marvelous result of Jesus’ unique self-sacrifice is that His death “put away sin.” Human beings desperately need Jesus’ saving accomplishment because ever since Adam’s fall, by divine appointment, death awaits human beings, and beyond that, there is “eternal judgment.” But Jesus takes upon Himself the inevitability of judgment following death for His people. At Jesus’ return He will bring final salvation, not judgment, for Believers. The reason? Jesus’ death, unlike that of all others, was redemptive; He died to “bear . . . sins.” “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Salvation is bigger and greater than many imagine. The Savior’s death and resurrection not only suffice for past sins; they also save us now and until the second coming. Jesus “will appear a second time . . . to save” those who anticipate His return (all Believers). This gospel truth infuses us with tremendous hope. Regardless of our successes and failures and our accomplishments or lack of them, if we know Jesus as Savior and Lord, He will surely come back for us, bringing the final installment of our great salvation. This is God’s grand impetus for Christian living: to tell us over and over that “the Son of God . . . loved” us “and gave himself for” us (Galatians 2:20).
How do you see your believing heart loving God in return for all He has done and loving those around you?
Hebrews 10 – Once more sharply contrasts Old Testament priests and Jesus, to show His superiority. While ministering, the priests stood, indicating that their work was never done. Christ “sat down at the right hand of God,” indicating that His priestly work was completely finished.
Old Testament priests offered “repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” Jesus’ unique self-offering is effective and perfects Believers forever. Old Testament sacrifices were plural; Jesus’ was “a single sacrifice.” All of this means that the former priests’ ministries were earthly, provisional, temporary, and thus not effective. Jesus’ offering was heavenly (although accomplished on earth), final, permanent, and successful.
Because of the magnificence of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” This verse wonderfully summarizes the biblical doctrine of salvation applied. The basis for Believers’ acceptance by God is always and only Jesus’ “single offering.” On good days and bad, in each and every circumstance, it is the unique Son of God’s atonement that perfects us “for all time.” But at the same time, God’s people are recognizable; you can pick them out. They are “those who are being sanctified.” They have been perfected at their core (their true identity) and are now learning to live out this identity more and more in this life.
The Believer’s life includes repenting of their sins. Knowing they are already fully forgiven because of the cross, they still repent (change their minds) because sin hurts the people around them and it hurts them. So there is a true desire to turn away from their sin by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As the author has taught (in Hebrews 9:15), Jesus’ sacrifice was so great that it made the Old Testament sacrifices effective in their day. They truly brought forgiveness, not in themselves but as foreshadows of Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, 36). Gratitude for such grace transforms us now into a people filled with love and mercy for others, both lost persons and wayward Believers (Matthew 18:21–35; Ephesians 4:32).
Verses 19-24 provide gospel-driven exhortations based on the self-offering of Jesus, the divine-human Mediator. And each time the writer refers to one of the three cardinal Christian virtues: “faith,” “hope,” and “love”.
First, he urges true knowledge and worship of God. The basis for this is that Jesus, our Great High Priest, authorizes us to enter God’s heavenly presence through His blood. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” having experienced Christian conversion. Because of Jesus’ priestly work we have the privilege of drawing near to God in worship, prayer, and faith.
Second, he urges perseverance. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Once again the author urges them to continue in the faith, “for he who promised is faithful.” We imitate Sarah, who “considered him faithful who had promised” (11:11). God will never fail us; therefore, we remain steadfast to the end in faith, holiness, and love.
Third, he urges love. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Amid trials, Believers are to show practical concern for one another. This expresses itself in “good works.” They are to continue caring for each other, whatever the cost. Such care is stimulated by meeting together for worship, fellowship, and mutual encouragement. Here the writer supplements the second coming of our heavenly High Priest to bring salvation (9:28) with the Old Testament idea of “the Day” of the Lord (10:25). He thereby offers both reassurance and encouragement of the need to persevere until that Day.
God lavished His grace on His people for many wonderful purposes. Here the Lord assures us of our acceptance through Jesus that leads us to know and worship God; to persevere in believing the gospel, even in difficult times; and to show practical care for one another. In short, by underscoring the grace of God in the work of Jesus, our Great High Priest, Hebrews seeks to motivate us in faith, hope, and love.
How does this chapter help you see the New Covenant is not the Old Covenant 2.0, but an all together new and better Covenant completely fulfilled by Jesus?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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